Teaching in Asia can be extremely rewarding! It’s also very different from anything you may have done before. Sure, teaching is teaching, but teaching in Asia seems to have developed its own set of rules.
Teaching Asian Students
All students in all regions have similarities and differences. After a while, you begin to learn what works and what doesn’t with a particular age group or class. Culture plays a bigger role than you think, and can even sometimes influence if a certain activity will work or not.
We all know there are exceptions to every rule, but here are some general observations from experience turned into tips.
1. Gamify as much as you can.
Traditional and current schools in Asia are very heavily focused on teacher-centred lessons. The teacher lectures and the students listen. The whole time. It’s a bit intense, to say the least. Combine that with “extra classes” at the end of each day, and students are overwhelmed and often tired. English classes consist of tons of grammar.
When you play any type of game in your ESL classroom, you’ll see students light up. They love it. Even young adults love the silliest of games. “Gamify” means to turn something into a game. Try to do this with as many activities as possible, even if it’s just adding points for a correct answer. Anything that gets students competitive or up out of their seats is always very well received.
2. Understand shyness.
Fear of being wrong often holds Asian students back from actively speaking. Granted, there are some very outgoing individuals, but overall students in Asia tend to be a bit on the shy side. Thinking of how their normal classes are set up will give you a good idea of why. It’s important to remember and understand where they are coming from. The best way to overcome this is to continue to build good rapport and a comfortable learning environment.
3. Use positive reinforcement.
Students in Asia simply don’t get enough positive reinforcement. Everything is all about marks. Seeing a high grade is often the only satisfaction they get. Find what works best for you and each of your classes. It could be stickers, or it could be specific positive comments. Focus on the positive when bad things are happening. For example, if a class is particularly talkative one day, reward those who are paying attention and the others will follow suit quickly.
Living in Asia
4. Keep an open mind.
Perhaps the biggest and best tip you can receive when teaching in Asia is to keep an open mind. You may have even heard it before, but have you really taken it to heart?
The East is an entirely different world than the West. There will be many things you have never seen before. Everyone has a different way of doing things, and this is even truer in an Asian country. There is no one thing you need to know or do before taking the plunge besides keeping an open mind.
About the Author
Yvette Smith is a dedicated teacher and mother who has worked in China, Mexico, and Vietnam. She enjoys writing about her knowledge and experiences in the ESL field.